30 years, 700+ pieces: Annual Christmas display brings family together

Published: Dec. 16, 2016 at 11:15 AM EST
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Most people put up lights and a tree to celebrate Christmas. One man built a miniature village in his basement.

Around 1985 Jeff Ziegler got a couple Coca-Cola house figurines from his mom back. He’s not really sure when things took a turn, but two years ago he counted 550 figurine people and over 100 structures. That number has grown and he’s quite frank about not actually knowing where his collection stands today.

Perched on top of some plywood and picnic tables, the scene looks like something out of a claymation movie. Your eye isn’t sure where to go or where to stop. The town has a ski resort in one corner, a functioning mini Ferris wheel, donut shop, Wrigglyville and Christmas tree farm, to name a few landmarks.

Some pieces are more personal than others, like the outdoor wedding scene his daughter made; she recently got married.

Ziegler says he starts unpacking the boxes out of storage in late November and from there he begins setting up the tables. The finished village takes up a third of his basement and about a week to put together, but he gets a lot of help from his three children, who, even though they’re adults with families of their own now, still return home to hunker down and help dad make “Zieglerville” come to life.

Some people come home for mom’s apple pie, but the Zieglers come home to spend time together to make another year of Zieglerville possible. Each year the Christmas village looks a little different with different nuances that make it special. Ziegler says his kids add their own quirks that he discovers over time. The kids like to add their own flare. This year there are cats on roofs and a man stuck in a tree.

Once it’s all done, he takes great pride in the accomplishment and mentally prepares to take it down after the new year. He admittedly has had years in the past where life has got in the way and he hasn’t set up the village; it hasn’t gone over well with some family members who look forward it.

This year, Ziegler says anyone is welcome to come take a look for themselves. He lives in Wakarusa and just asks that people call ahead. He can be reached at 574-862-1778.